#2. What we flush!

Wow, nearly two years and I’ve not continued my blogging…. sad, typical I am afraid too.  Hopefully I can pursue Tweeting and Blogging these ideas and passions more frequently in 2017.  Note I’ve not stated “promise”, “commit”, or “resolve”.

Americans, cause I’ve not done the research on other cultures, have a strong connection to their bathrooms.  We see that porcelain throne as the last great bastion for disposal; not just our own personal waste, but our pets, our various personal hygiene products, our food, and other none waste water… waste.  It is not a new practice, our culture used to toss all kinds of things down the crap hole when we used simple privies and latrines.  However, that’s a discussion for history rather than environmental protection.

So I’ll spin the wheel and select a group of materials that we should not be flushing………Household Hazardous Waste products.  Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) are hazardous wastes that are in very small volumes because they are generated by a typical household.  Examples are batteries, cleaning products, pest and herbicides, drain cleaners, it is a near endless list.

I can safely say that nearly every municipality offers a collection program for HHW products, though the opportunities to make use of these programs may only allow for disposal once per year.  Regardless, it’s best if they are disposed of in the proper manner.  Our waste water systems are designed to manage and treat organic waste, specifically organic waste generated by our bodies (I’ve still got to share why we should not flush food).  The mixing of various chemicals, even in small volumes, can harm the waste water conveyance in your home and in the public right of way (RW) along with the treatment facility.  Lastly, the treatment process may require more or additional (not typical) reagents to treat an influx in unacceptable chemicals or wastes.

The proper disposal of HHW materials has greatly improved over the last decade, with one exception unused drugs.  Whether prescription or not, pharmaceuticals do not belong in our waste water.  Our systems currently don’t treat such additions to the waste stream (sorry bad pun) and pass through to the effluent of the system, meaning our streams and lakes.  Again these volumes are small, but the pharmaceuticals react with and impact the environment in ways we have not fully evaluated at this time.  It is certainly easier not to dispose of the drugs in the toilet than it is to treat the waste water after the fact.

In Milwaukee you can now take unused and expired drugs to one of our Police Stations and drop them off for proper disposal by one of their contractors.  Wave of the future, take the drugs to the cops.  Check in your own area to see what you can do with waste pharmaceuticals and if you’re told to flush them, make sure you explain clearly why you can’t do that and demand your municipality develop a program for disposing of pharmaceuticals that doesn’t lead to dumping them in your lakes and rivers.